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2024 legislative session begins as House Democrats, Republicans unveil agendas

Todd Huston and Phil GiaQuinta sit at a table, listening to someone out of frame speaking. Huston is a White man with dark, graying hair, wearing a suit and tie. GiaQuinta is a White man with brown hair, wearing glasses and a suit and tie.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) and House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) unveiled their caucus's priorities at the start of the 2024 legislative session.

Indiana House Democrats and Republicans unveiled their top priorities for 2024 as the work of the legislative session got underway Monday.

Democrats said their legislative agenda is centered on “economic freedom.” House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said too many Hoosiers aren’t truly free.

“They can’t be conned by empty boasts about freedom when their opportunities and choices grow more narrow by the day,” GiaQuinta said. “They know economic bondage because they’re living it.”

The House Democrats’ agenda includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour (up from $7.25), making union dues tax deductible, providing a homestead tax credit and enacting universal pre-K.

GiaQuinta said the legislature should also allow citizen-led ballot initiatives, for Hoosiers to more directly speak on important issues.

“I don’t know about you, but I have a strong suspicion that Hoosiers don’t like the government telling them what to do on abortion or marijuana,” GiaQuinta said.

READ MORE: Why doesn’t Indiana have citizen-led ballot initiatives?

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None of those agenda items are likely to go anywhere in Indiana’s Republican supermajority legislature.

There is an agenda item that both Democrats and Republicans share. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said one of his caucus’s top priorities is giving public pension retirees a 13th check this year, an extra month of benefits.

“Well, you know, the House has always supported that initiative,” Huston said. “Last year, as part of the budget negotiations, it just didn’t come to fruition. We wanted a chance to do it again this year.”

Indiana House Republicans also want to build on their efforts to better align high school education with workforce training in the 2024 session.

The caucus’s top priority bill, HB 1001, would allow state scholarship programs — such as 21st Century Scholars and the Frank O’Bannon grant — to be used for workforce training, not just traditional two- and four-year degree programs.

Huston said it helps further the goal of making a more relevant high school experience.

“Getting more kids into high school classes that are going to prepare them for college and the workforce,” Huston said.

Another key bill for House Republicans, HB 1002, would provide protections on college campuses against antisemitism. The House unanimously approved that legislation last year, but it failed to advance in the Senate.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.